David Nugent: Toward a Grounded, Balanced Future

David Nugent is a psychotherapist and facilitator of men’s behavior change programs, which he runs under the banner Heavy METAL (Men’s Education Towards Anger and Life) Group.

Having worked with adults and teenagers for 20 years, his specialty is supporting men to overcome anger and family violence-related behavioral issues in the Australian community.

David founded his Heavy METAL Group programs to help men identify, understand, and take responsibility for their behavior, attitudes, and emotional reactions. He leverages his professional skills and unique experience with violent behavior to help others live a nonviolent, nonabusive lifestyle. “I struggled with my behavior and promised myself that I would never be like my [abusive] father.”

“I provide behavior change programs for men who are perpetrators of family violence. Their challenges are getting angry with the people they care about most and doing things that leave them feeling guilty and ashamed. They often feel overwhelmed, out of control, and confused.”

Through Heavy METAL, David uses positive psychology to help his clients discover their values and develop key skills such as building intimacy, self-worth, confidence, and positive relationships.

Interview Highlights

Transforming Lives With Heavy METAL

David was a graduate psychotherapist in counseling and human services when he initially founded Heavy METAL.

The program addressed a real, pressing need and was significantly more in-depth than any program available back then: “From the very beginning, we offered 40 weeks with two levels. The first level was 20 weeks. So it was double the standard men’s program at the time.”

More importantly, it delved into topics David felt the police and government programs didn’t cover. Notably:

  • Communicating effectively with partners while managing key triggers and assumptions
  • Understanding a partner’s thoughts and feelings without feeling attacked or defensive
  • Seeking and receiving feedback from partners to make positive behavioral changes

The program was so successful that many men returned repeatedly, sometimes even four or five times. Like David, they realized the importance of long-term commitment for making change.

Soon, however, he started noticing a growing difference between the needs of repeat, long-term Heavy METAL participants and the program’s newer attendees:

“The newer guys that were coming up into that [second] level were starting to feel a little bit intimidated because these [long-term] guys had grown so much. Their language and the way they were talking to each other had changed. The newer guys were feeling uncomfortable with that because they were still miles behind.”

David realized he needed to bring in a third level: the Grounded and Balanced (GAB) Program.

Grounded and Balanced

A very important part of David’s vision for GAB was that the program would challenge his continuing participants and “take them to another part of the journey of change.”

He wanted a program he could easily expand into structured sessions for his men’s group, and with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, it was also essential that he could deliver those materials online.

When David stumbled across PositivePsychology.com, he realized Mindfulness X contained the new resources he needed to create his next level: “That was exactly what I was looking for. I could expand […] some of the ideas and exercises suggested.”

He began using his new PositivePsychology.com resources as starting points for exploring core themes and helping clients build skills.

For example, David’s expansion of “The Ego” topic in Mindfulness X was especially impactful for his GAB participants, prompting important discussions in the group. He also used the ideas and exercises to design several “Ego” sessions for his participants, from understanding their drives and frustrations to “being in tune with where that’s coming from.”

“We worked our way up towards pulling apart our ego,” David explains. “But the feedback was they absolutely loved that part of the program and the discussions we had around that.”

In addition to Mindfulness X, David also used tools from the Positive Psychology Toolkit® to help GAB members identify their core values:

“PositivePsychology.com has some really great templates. Working through some of the recommendations around looking at core values was the kick start of doing that with GAB program participants.”

David’s approach was brilliantly received:

“Some of the feedback I got at the end of the term was that this has just been the best part of their whole journey. Having something that [I] can tease the men to talk more about and then get them chatting has been the biggest highlight.”

Next-Level Change

GAB is a small, invite-only group, as David believes it’s important that all participants have the foundation of the first two levels.

But his participants “don’t miss a week” and are learning new things all the time.

“We haven’t repeated any of the material in GAB. And my secret to that is because of positive psychology and some of the resources I’ve been able to source.”

David is excited by how much he and his men have achieved together with positive psychology. With the program now in its 18th month, GAB seems set to continue changing lives for the better.

“They’re making their change to be better men in our first two levels and spending a lot of time doing what we do there, but then [taking] it to this deeper level where they’re looking within themselves.”

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